- Neil Greenberg, NHL
The Los Angeles Kings surprised everyone when they won the Stanley Cup following the 2011-12 season. They were a No. 8 seed, yet they eliminated the top three seeds in the Western Conference during their playoff run. Even more impressive, they never faced an elimination game, going 12-2 in the first three rounds before beating the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Finals.
However, the Kings weren't able to defend their crown in the shortened 2013 season. They had the league's best home record (19-4-1) in the regular season, but were just 8-12-4 away from the Staples Center. Their stalwart in net, Jonathan Quick, went from stopping 1,730 of the 1,863 shots he faced in 2011-12 (a .929 save percentage) to a below-average .902 in 2013. And while Quick redeemed himself in the postseason, saving 484 of the 518 shots he faced, the Kings couldn't stop Chicago in the Western Conference finals. This year will be different: The Kings will be the 2013-14 Stanley Cup champions.
For Los Angeles, it all starts with puck possession. Ignoring special-teams play and lead-protecting situations, the Kings had possession of the puck 57.3 percent of the time last season, the highest percentage in the league. Higher than the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who were second-best (56.1 percent). When the Kings won the Cup, they were over 56 percent after they traded for Jeff Carter -- that rate was tops in the league, as well. And with much of the roster from the championship team returning -- only Simon Gagne, Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner and Jonathan Bernier are elsewhere -- you can pencil them in as one of the best teams in the league at protecting the puck.
Neil Greenberg provides his bold predictions for the 2013-14 NHL season, including his take on why the Los Angeles Kings will win the Stanley Cup.